Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: The Dog Show Live at Club Midway 5/24/07

An aggressive, ballistic performance. The Dog Show is basically frontman/guitarist Jerome O’Brien backed by a rotating cast of A-list New York musicians. As with the great jazz groups of the 1950s, this band shifts shapes depending on who’s playing: with one cast of characters, they can sound like the Stones playing early Elvis Costello; with a different crew, they sound more like the Animals. This unit featured the players on their landmark album Hello, Yes, which was the last recording ever made at Jerry Teel’s legendary Fun House studios. This incarnation bears a very close resemblance to the Jam, mod beats and melodies fueled by pure punk energy and O’Brien’s corrosive, literate lyricism.

The rhythm section had come out of semi-retirement for this show and played like they’d never left. Although the drums were too high in the sound mix, this was a blessing in disguise: Josh Belknap played joyous, rolling thunder all night. You could have closed your eyes and believed that Keith Moon was behind the kit. Bassist Andrew Plonsky was also way up in the mix, playing his dexterous, melodic lines with a growly, trebly tone, defying any conventional wisdom about having to have calloused fingers to play well. Lead guitarist Dave Popeck, whose regular gig until recently was fronting the power trio Twin Turbine, was unfortunately way back in the mix for most of the show. Those lucky enough to figure out what he was doing by watching his fingers fly up and down the fretboard were, until the end of the show, the only people in the house who could have appreciated his searing leads. O’Brien cut loose in front of the band, delivering each line as if it was his last.

The entire set was songs from the Hello, Yes album, opening with Broken Treat, sounding very much like something from All Mod Cons. They followed it with a scorching version of the Stonesy White Continental. On the next song, a particularly terse version of the 6/8 blues Diamonds and Broken Glass, the band came way down on the third chorus, putting O’Brien’s bitter lyric front and center. It’s a dismissive slap at an ex-girlfriend’s “man who can open you up like a can,” building to the chorus:

There’s a diamond inside
For every tear you ever cried
And broken glass is all you’ll ever find
When you’re living a lie

Popeck, finally audible in the mix, followed with a brief, blistering, trebly solo, then the band brought it down again for a final refrain. Later in the set, on the bouncy I Heard Everything That You Said, Popeck built the tension to the breaking point on the chorus with sheets of guitar feedback. Then, on the gorgeously evocative Halcyon Days, a series of scenes from a happier era on the Lower East Side – now overrun with luxury housing and tourists from the outlying counties – Popeck let loose with his most pathological, Stoogoid solo of the night. The band built to an extended, pummeling crescendo out of the chorus on the next song of their tantalizingly brief set, Every Baby Boy. While the sound in the club was uncharacteristically muddy, the passion and intensity of the show made up for it.

One of the later bands on the bill had cancelled, but instead of giving the Dog Show a chance to stretch out and give their fans a little extra, the club pushed them back an hour. Which backfired: when the announcement was made, the audience trickled out for food or cheaper drinks elsewhere, returning just as the Dog Show were about to take the stage for real.

May 25, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Album Review: Willie Nile – Streets of New York

His best album. Some critics have called it his London Calling: a better reference point would be Sandinista, given how New York-obsessed the Clash were on their final masterpiece. This cd – Willie Nile’s sixth full-length album, released midway through last year – finds the NY underground rock eminence grise at the top of his game and the peak of his career, 25 years after he started, when Vagabond Moon was the #1 song of the year in Norway. Yeah, Norway. The folks stateside got it for awhile – just listen to the audience on Nile’s Archive Alive album, recorded in front of thousands in Central Park in 1981– but the corporations didn’t. No great surprise.

 

Nile’s trademark is the Big Rock Anthem, filled with Big Catchy Hooks, and this album is replete with them. It’s two-guitar, four-on-the-floor meat-and-potatoes R&R, with a nod to the Who, a wink to Dylan and a big high-five to vintage, Darkness on the Edge of Town-era Springsteen, seen through the skewed prism of early 80s new wave.  Good stuff. Mellencamp (and Mary Lee’s Corvette) lead guitarist Andy York is Nile’s not-so-secret weapon here, leading the jackhammer assault with an uncommon mastery of tones and textures – Twin Turbine fans will dig this record. The rhythm section of Brad Albetta (also of Mary Lee’s Corvette) on bass and Rich Pagano on drums kicks ass; the melody guy and the rhythm guy lock in and push this sleek, powerful vehicle to the limit.

 

The cd kicks off with the stomping Welcome to My Head, a surreal blast of West Village imagery. The album’s most obvious choice for a radio hit is Game Of Fools, which sounds like the Wallflowers. Ridiculously catchy, the lyrics of the verse firing like a Gatling gun right up to Nile’s trademark killer chorus. Nile’s requisite long Irish ballad (he has a fondness for these) is The Day I Saw Bo Diddley in Washington Square, featuring none other than Jakob Dylan on harmony vocals. The sad, towering anthem Fading Flower of Broadway reportedly brought York to tears when Nile first played it for the band: it’s a ruefully gorgeous Times Square mise-en-scene, set in an era before Disney came through and wiped it off the map.

 

Another standout track is Cell Phones Ringing (In The Pockets Of The Dead), lyrically the most Dylanesque of all of them. With its cleverly phased noise guitar solo and tricky false ending, it reminds of the explosive, percussive power of Nile’s 1980 FM radio hit Old Men Sleeping on the Bowery. The last 30 metal-melting seconds of this song, a scorching evocation of the Madrid train bombings, alone justify the price of the album (although the same could be said for the paint-peeling vindictiveness of The Best Friends Money Can Buy, a delirious blast of derision at the trust fund crowd).

 

It’s also nice to hear Nile – who began his career as a keyboardist and remains a potent player – featured on piano here, especially on the overtly Blonde on Blonde-inflected piano/organ shuffle Back Home and on the album’s title track, a Jungleland-esque ballad that closes the album on a gorgeously climactic note. For not only is this a great rock record, it’s a piece of history: the places Nile immortalizes here will soon be gone. Mamoun’s Falafel? Soon to be replaced by a Starbuck’s and luxury condos upstairs, no doubt. That is if they don’t raze the whole building. Get this album if you have any affection whatsoever for this city and what it used to be or know anyone who does. CD’s are available in better record stores, online and at shows. Nile is no dummy: he doesn’t play that many live shows in NYC anymore, so there’s always a full house when he does, watch this space.

May 1, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments